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Building A Life

A student who finds it difficult to communicate finds a place he can work and be happy.
June 24, 2016 - Guatemala

Alis (left) and his friend and tutor Edwin

The carpentry workshop grinds and roars with various wood working machinery. Many of the workers and students wear ear protection, but Alis doesnít need to Ė this is one place where being deaf can be a good thing.

Abandoned by his parents, his elderly grandparents couldnít care for their energetic grandson. Arriving at NPH as an eleven year old, Alis has been deaf since birth and has never spoken.

Poverty and a lack of social services in Guatemala means itís not uncommon for children with mental and/or physical disabilities to miss out on education. This can severely limit their ability to become independent. NPH Guatemala has several special education classes aimed at students with learning disabilities. At the beginning of this year, an NPH student who is also deaf, graduated school at San Andres and has moved to live and attend high school in Chimaltenango. Unfortunately due to a lack of crucial early childhood learning and interaction with people, Alis canít make the same move. He has significant learning problems and canít retain new information. What he can do though, is use his skills in the carpentry workshop.

Alis has been going to the workshop since he arrived at NPH over ten years ago. He loves it there and he enjoys sanding, painting and operating the machinery. However, the reason Alis feels happiest there is more than just being able to learn a practical skill, itís also due to the care of his tutor Edwin.

Edwinís commitment to communicating with his studentís has created a special bond. Edwin knows some sign and tried to teach Alis more from a book, but that didnít work. Instead the pair talk in their own made up language, a hybrid of official signs and invented hand gestures.

Edwin says Alis is a major help in the workshop. He knows how to select the best wood, identify different types, and he helps to create many of the souvenirs and furniture made to sell at market.

Alis may not ever be able to live independently, but NPH has given him a place he can be happy and productive and most important of all, a way to communicate.

Vanessa French   
Communication Officer

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




NPH Guatemala

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